01 July 2016

Zombie Hunter ... or ... Serial Killer?

Police say he was BOTH!

By Dixon Hill


67-year-old retired police detective Leo Speliopoulos was called to a crime scene in 2015.  Cold case investigators had cracked a case that had baffled and frustrated Speliopoulos for over two decades, -- a case that had alarmed Phoenix residents, afraid that a serial killer was stalking and stabbing women around the Arizona Canal, which winds like a spangled snake throughout the Valley of the Sun.



In 1992, 22-year-old Angela Brosso (left) had graduated from college in Los Angeles.  She took a job with Phoenix electronics firm Syntellect and moved in with her boyfriend.  In an interview, later, her mother, Linda, described Angela as "A force," adding, "...her father said she changed the nature of a room when she entered it.  And it's true, you know? She really did."

Sadly, one November evening, that year, not long after moving to Phoenix, miss Brosso went for a bike ride.  Her decapitated body was found near 25th avenue and Cactus road in Phoenix a short time later.


Eleven days after that, somebody spotted her head, stuck in a grate, in the Arizona Canal.



About ten months later, in September of 1993, Melanie Bernas, a 17-year-old Arcadia High School student, disappeared on a bike ride along the Arizona Canal.  (There are some very nice bike paths along the top of the bank.)

Her corpse was found, bobbing, near where the canal passes beneath I-17 a little north of Dunlap Avenue.  She had been stabbed and sexually assaulted.

Friends described her as a high-achiever who planned to become a doctor. Her death prevented her from completing slated visits to both Berkley and Pepperdine.

Six months after her body was found, using forensic evidence, police connected her murder to Brosso's.  They also noted that both Brosso's purple 21-speed Diamnondback mountain bike and Bernas' green SPC Hardrock Sport mountain bike remained missing.

They would remain missing for years afterward.  The night Leo Speliopoulos received that call, police carried rusted bikes from the suspect's backyard storage shed.

Police are pretty cagey about the forensic evidence in the case, worried they might taint a future jury pool, but it's a pretty good bet that DNA, reportedly found on both bodies, was what originally tied the two murders together.  And, there is no doubt it's the smoking gun that led to an arrest in 2015.

In the early 90's, the level of science used to work with DNA had not been developed enough to help in the right way. Police interviewed hundreds of potential suspects, and possible witnesses, but drew a blank when it came to the killer's identity.

Back in 1993, Bryan Patrick Miller was just one name among hundreds, which police received in tips.  The Phoenix PD Cold Case Homicide Unit didn't sit around eating doughnuts for twenty years, however.  They revisited the case hundreds of times, amassing so much evidence that an entire file cabinet was turned over to that case alone.  They even enlisted the aid of an organization of forensics experts called the Vidocq Society.

The Zombie Hunter in earlier days, his car in background.
Vidocq gave investigators a probable profile of the perpetrator, suggesting a man who still lived in the area and had probably been involved in precursor crimes, possibly even setting fires.

Vidocq suggested he would be a man who acted out his fantasies.  And, a man who had probably crossed paths with investigators before.



From among the list of hundreds of names, Phoenix Police tagged 42-year-old Bryan Patrick Miller, who often went by the name "Zombie Hunter."

Miller had been arrested in 1990 for stabbing a woman in Paradise Valley Mall.  The then-juvenile Miller had said the woman reminded him of his mother.

Miller had also been tried and acquitted of stabbing a woman in Washington state in 2002. He evidently moved there, not long after the murder of Melanie Burnas.

Melissa Ruiz-Ramirez says she was walking in Everett Washington when Miller offered her a ride. Later, he took her to work so she could use his phone, according to Ruiz-Ramirez, and he stabbed her. Miller beat the rap by claiming she had asked him for money, then tried to stab him when he refused. He claimed he had wrestled the knife away from her and turned the tables on his assailant.  The jury believed him.  Consequently, his DNA was not entered into CODIS, a national databank of DNA from convicted felons.

Now, however, he was back in Phoenix, driving around in a decommissioned police car that he festooned with yellow caution lights and painted "Zombie Hunter" on.  He reportedly called himself "The Arizona Zombie Killer," and offered the car and himself for hire to those planning Zombie themed activities.  He was also a regular at Comicon and Zombie Walks.

Police won't disclose how they obtained his DNA, but they arrested Miller because his DNA was on both bodies, and they can't figure out any other way it could have gotten there.  They also refuse to disclose many of the items removed from his property when they served the search warrant, fearing they may taint witnesses or jurors.  When local media tried to gain access to the warrant report, Superior Court Judge Michael W. Kemp shot them down, writing:  "Some of the items seized would be perceived as extremely alarming and evidence of guilt."
His true face.

Meanwhile, police are investigating Miller's possible involvement in the killing of two more young women in The Valley, including one who was selling Girl Scout cookies at the time of her death.

His trial is set for April 2017.








13 comments:

Leigh Lundin said...

That's scary, really scary when the real-life hunter was infinitely more terrifying than actual zombies. At least the flesh-eaters don't hide from police.

I bet your surmise about the evidence is correct, Dixon. Their key must have been DNA.

janice law said...

What a bizarre detail that he would set himself up as a Zombie Hunter. You couldn't make that up!

Eve Fisher said...

The thing about real-life serial killers is that they hide in plain sight, and no one can ever believe that the weird crap they talk about is actually what they think, what they believe. I can't believe that jury bought his story about having been attacked by the woman who was stabbed. Then again, I can. Sociopaths can work [demonic] miracles in courtrooms.

Anonymous said...

Geeze louise. What a nightmarish man!

R.T. Lawton said...

Dix, even more scary, did you and your son ever run into "the Zombie Hunter" at Comicon?

Anonymous said...

I've actually made eye contact with this a-hole. We owned a house about about 4 blocks from him. He creeped me out with his white trash looks and stupid looking car. That is a real shite neighborhood anyways, tons of derilects, addicts, thieves and all around low-lifes. Too bad because the hills and nature areas are nice (for a desert). Thankfully we sold that house and no long have reason to enter "The Slope"

Anonymous said...

He really did hide in plain sight. I lived in the same appartment complex as Brasso and ran along that path for years. He would ride his bike on the opposite side of the canal to the park on the north side of Cactus. He could hunt for a victim from the other side of the canal and then just cross over without being seen by everyone on the path. He looked much different then.I didn't know his name then but knew him by sight. He had longer hair and wore a hat but he did have the glasses with baggy shorts and a tee shirt. I thought it was strange that he had a back pack. I could tell he was not riding for fitness like other bikers. He was rude and evil. I crossed his path twice that Sunday before Brosso past me on her bike with her earphones on. I remembered thinking how does she keep her shoes so clean and white without any dirt on them. I left that day because I had such a bad feeling on the trail. It was allready dusk. He was not too far behind her on the opposite side of the canal. I came back the next morning to run instead. I didn't get very far that morning. I knew his next victim would be an easier target. She gave him a run for his money. The hardest one he took down!

Anonymous said...

They still have the metal signs up looking for the stolen bikes along the canal where it all happend

Baskervillain said...

The comment from January 5 is total BS. The geography isn't even close to being right, and to say that he/she saw Miller closing in on Brasso is just ridiculous. I can't believe what kind of lies people will come up with. Shame on him/her!

FabuBliss said...

Has anyone confirmed the trial starting in April? I know Bryan, and have been to several events where he was also in attendance. We had a conversation at FearCon in 2014, and he was arrested a few months later. He is very creepy!

Dixon Hill said...

According to the AZ Republic his trial is scheduled for April 28th.

Anonymous said...

A friend of his works at game stop. Her name is tiffany. She says he did not do it. The police set him up she says.

Anonymous said...

Wonder if he has bee looked into if this could be a victim of him Victim: Cynthia Cano.

Time/Date: 10:30 a.m. Feb. 5, 1992.

Location: 2000 S. 47th Ave. Phx AZ

Narrative: Cano, 29, was leaning against a jukebox at the Cheers III bar in Phoenix late Feb. 4 waiting for a friend to emerge from the restroom.

Cano was gone by the time her friend returned and was found stabbed in a canal the next morning.

The person who found her was walking along a canal off 47th Avenue and Buckeye Road, about 10 miles south of Cheers III at Bethany Home Road and 19th Avenue.

The person told police they heard someone breathing in the area but saw no one around.

The person examined further and found Cano in the canal with multiple stab wounds. She was barely conscious and died shortly after being transported to the hospital.

Police found tire tracks and other evidence from the scene indicative of a struggle between Cano and her assailant.

Cano’s friend from the bar told police Cano had been trained in some sort of self-defense.

Police have been able to account for most of the time Cano was in the bar prior to he disappearance, but variables surround what took place afterward.....


I'm pretty sure this psycho is who chopped up this rottie I found in the canal back then in the areas we freely walked and rode our bikes I came across some fool in the distance once with a long trench coat on holding a sword n I took off running I never walked canals alone and the rottie was found over a bridge and I'm thinking now in other unopened bag possibly a victim of his head was in it there are other victims and it's so important they be found because these guys get off playing the court and system god rest in peace and let's get justice for other victims